Happy Tuesday, all!!
It was a day to feel a glimmer of optimism. The sun was shining, the air was warm, and while the number of deaths due to COVID-19 is sobering and also climbing, there is a possibility that we have hit or are in the apex of this public health crisis within the state.
As mentioned earlier, but bears repeating, today is World Health Day. Now more than ever, we should all know how much medical workers deserve appreciation. They are risking their own health every day to take care of the rest of us. Be sure to show your appreciation in some way – there are still a few hours left to do so! And again, please continue to abide by strict social distancing guidelines and public health protocols.
Let’s get to the to today’s 5 things.
1) Top defense officials have confirmed that the acting secretary of the Navy, Thomas Modly, resigned amid controversy of a leaked tape that revealed him disparaging Captain Brett Crozier of the USS Theodore Roosevelt who was relieved of the ship’s command last week. James McPherson, the current acting undersecretary of the Army, will be taking over for the immediate future.
Modly was heard raging against Capt. Crozier about his memo on the outbreak of the novel coronavirus on his naval ship. Crozier had written the memo out of frustration with the protocols the Navy recommended that ships with positive COVID-19 cases follow. According to Crozier, the protocols were neither practical nor would they prevent the spread of the virus.
In the memo, the former commander painted a grim picture of life on the ship with infected personnel and detailed exactly how it was ineffective in preventing further infections. Capt. Crozier sent this memo up the chain of command, but also to at least 20 people outside it. Eventually, the memo was printed in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Shortly after the memo went public, Crozier was relieved of duty by McPherson, and there were videos of him being cheered by those formerly under his command as he left the USS Theodore Roosevelt last Friday. Two days later, McPherson was aboard the ship to explain his reason for ousting Crozier to the ship’s crew and personnel.
Modly believed that the Crozier was either exceedingly naive and/or stupid to be in command of the naval ship or that he had sent the memo on purpose with the intent of it being publicized. If it was the latter, then Crozier violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice. After the recording was leaked, Modly spent today trying to backtrack, stating that he didn’t believe that Crozier was either naive and stupid, but that he willingly and intentionally meant for the memo to get published.
Modly went on to apologize to Capt. Crozier, Crozier’s family, and the USS Theodore Roosevelt crew for his words. He also apologized for the confusion caused by his wording, and any hurt that he may have caused.
President Trump agreed to look into the situation, and said that while Crozier’s letter should never have gone out (a point he repeated emphatically and often) he thought that Modly’s statements went too far.
Throughout the day, calls for Modly to either resign or be removed increased, going all the way up to the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, who issued a statement that called for Modly to be ousted, saying he showed bad judgment and a lack of leadership with his words.
2) Two weeks ago, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) put out a call to companies to help provide the desperately needed medical equipment and supplies to fight the country’s COVID-19 pandemic. Over 1,000 companies responded to the call, but as of yesterday only three had supplies on hand that FEMA could actually purchase.
Sources close to the issue stated that many of those initial 1,000 offers requested payment upfront, and that is a condition to which FEMA simply can not agree. The other issue is that some of the offers were oversold by the companies – meaning they promised more than they actually had.
Within FEMA, this is known as vaporware, which is a term adopted from tech companies. Initially meaning software or hardware announced that is never produced, FEMA uses the term to refer to any supplies that are promised or offered but never appear. Not only is this situation disappointing, but the procurement staff of FEMA can spend hours researching and vetting false offers – a waste of valuable time and resources.
FEMA has requested personal protective equipment, medical equipment, supplies, and even body bags. The companies send in their offers, and the procurement team begins the vetting process – which starts out promising and goes into vagueness and reveals no actual product immediately available within a few calls.
This isn’t entirely unexpected. Most medical vendors are already dealing with dwindling product in the face of increasing demand. FEMA itself is an agency more used to dealing with natural disasters at a state and local level and only took over handling the national pandemic in mid-March when it inherited the job of coordinating the US response to the COVID-19 crisis from the Department of Health and Human Services.
Trump announced that over the next three months the federal government will be purchasing over 165 million masks from 3M Co. after the invocation of the Defense Production Act on the company – but this is not one of the companies working with FEMA. The companies that FEMA is close to buying from have not been released, and haven’t even been leaked as of now since they are still undergoing FEMA’s more intense vetting processes.
3) In case you thought the authorities and top New York officials were kidding about enforcing the drive-through, takeout or delivery only at food establishments, think again. In upstate alone, two bars have not only been closed down but had their liquor licenses suspended for continuing to serve on their premises.
Both bars are located in Erie County, one in Buffalo – Swannie House and one in Clarence – AJ’s. It was the Erie County Health Department that shut them down upon finding out that both locations were breaking Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order shutting down on-site service. The State Liquor Authority (SLA) held an emergency online meeting today where they suspended both bars’ liquor licenses. The bars can appeal the decision.
Though these are the first upstate bars to be cited under the order, there have been two others – one in Queens and one in the Bronx. There was a report made to the Erie County Health Department that the Buffalo Swannie House was continuing business as normal, and a video showed approximately a dozen people inside the establishment drinking.
On March 27 at around 8:30 p.m., the Erie County Health Inspector showed up at Swannie’s and found again about 12 people inside. At around 9 p.m. when the Sheriff’s deputies arrived, the front door was locked and the customers were attempting to leave out the back door.
The same day, a similar complaint was made about AJ’s, again with video evidence to back up the allegation. And again, the Health Inspector arrived and saw 11 customers inside being served. He observed them for about half an hour, and then went in with the deputies. The owner of AJ’s met them inside stating he could not prevent the customers from showing up and being served.
In addition to the liquor license suspension, the two bars remain closed by order of the county health department. The SLA acknowledges that the shutdown of on-service business is hurting eating and drinking establishments, but is a necessary hardship to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
4) Karen Gregory, the executive director of the Shelters of Saratoga (SOS) announced Sunday that one way to help fight the spread of the novel coronavirus would be to employ the use of a hotel to house the city’s homeless, helping them to practice social distancing and employ proper hygiene.
Today, the Holiday Inn of Saratoga Springs, announced it will act as that temporary homeless shelter. Mayor Meg Kelly and Holiday Inn (Saratoga) General Manager Kevin Tuohy worked with Gregory to make the shelter happen.
Gregory will also be staying at the hotel to manage the residents and keep the project moving. The hotel will house 34 people until the end of April. The time frame can be opened up if there is a need to extend the stay, depending on the flow of the pandemic.
The Shelters of Saratoga Walworth Street Shelter will remain open as well.
During yesterday’s daily briefing in Albany County, leaders from both religions spoke and reminded people that even during this Holy Week, following the social distancing guidelines and public health protocols is vital to stop the spread of COVID-19. Most churches and synagogues are televising their services during this time.
Well, that’s it for tonight CivMixers! Get out there, enjoy the last few hours of daylight. According to the forecast, the rain will be back tomorrow. I think we will be dying eggs in the Marlette Household – so that should be fun and not at all stressful.
“Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s Party!’”
— Robin Williams
Photo credit: George Fazio.